Ethics Quote Of The Month: Ann Althouse


“Why did they hope for so much when they had a 50-50 Senate? Why did they think they’d won the support “to realize [the liberal leaders’] longtime policy goals”?

—-“Politically neutral” blogger/ former law professor Ann Althouse, commenting on the Democrats’ expressions of anger, disappointment and betrayal after Sen. Joe Manchin scuttled their multi-trillion social policies spending bill.

Why indeed. There have been a couple of Ethics Alarms posts about this general topic already, but Althouse’s reaction is particularly deft, since it functions as both a “What the hell’s the matter with these people?” legitimate query and a rhetorical question in which the answer is implicit.

That answer is that the Democrats have abandoned the basic tenets of how this republic is supposed to work as well as the principles of democracy that have served it so well. Never before in our history has the attitude of a political party been that once they have been granted power they have leave to put in place whatever policies and laws their most radical and extreme members can imagine irrespective of the clear expectations and beliefs of the American public.

The closest I can recall is the immediate prelude to the Civil War on the subject of slavery, and even then, the South revolted because it anticipated that the Republican Party would behave this way. The sweeping New Deal policies were undertaken by Democratic control of Congress and the White House with overwhelming support of a frightened public in the grip of The Great Depression. Lyndon Johnson’s extensive reforms followed his landslide victory over a conservative candidate whose views has been resoundingly rejected.

The fact that the House and the Senate are almost evenly divided reflects the lack of consensus or even a clear plurality of public opinion favoring many of the measures in the now-dead “Build Back Better” bill. Democracy exists on a foundation of respect and trust: a closely divided public compels elected officials to proceed carefully and to avoid the appearance of the government running roughshod over half the nation. If a party in power believes fervently in policies so much of the public opposes, then it must lead and persuade, not mandate and decree.

This Democratic Party’s strategy, instead, has been totalitarian in both method and spirit. The pandemic response of Democrats has been constitutionally dubious restrictions on personal liberty, mobility, and autonomy. Those who oppose their policies in this and other areas have been vilified, insulted, denigrated, bullied and threatened, and from the highest levels. Instead of legitimate debate and persuasion, the party has relied on propaganda, and a complicit news media that is expected to mislead the public while enhancing an extreme partisan message. In addition, the evidence is strong that what the Democrats are attempting was explicitly rejected by a majority of the public in the last election. Had America wanted a socialist, nanny state transformation, it would have elected  Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Instead, the Democratic President narrowly elected (after the part’s own constituency had rejected the extreme candidates), was old school liberal Joe Biden, who was sold as a moderate and reliably rooted in traditional politics. The Republic’s message could not have been clearer, and yet the Democratic Party has deliberately defied it, just as it undermined the results of the 2016 Presidential election for four years.

And it is worse yet. For the ongoing failures of the Biden administration together with the throbbing neon disasters of pet Democratic policies like defunding the police and decriminalization have created likely majority opposition to the party, its leadership and its ideology. There is a strong likelihood that the party is facing a near historic rejection in the 2022 mid-terms, yet its approach has become  determination to force its agenda on a resistant public before power slips though its fingers.

They were not able to pull it off, and they are furious about it. A courageous couple of Democratic Senators refused to be intimidated and bullied, and did what they felt was right, not what their monolithic, ideologically rigid party demanded that they do instead. That is exactly how democracy is supposed to work.

Now, the party and its media allies appear to have adopted the tactics of Orwell’s Big Brother as their response to their failure to distort democracy. The cry is that taking power away from the very party that has abused it will mean “the death of democracy,” and during the campaigns to come, the one-day, moronic mob of drunks and fools who stormed the Capital last January will be held up as exemplifying what opposition to the Democrats’ intended dictatorship is.

Why did they think they’d won the support to realize their longtime policy goals? They didn’t. They knew they didn’t have the support. They just thought they could get away with imposing those policies anyway.

After all, it has worked for so many anti-democratic leaders elsewhere.

20 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Month: Ann Althouse

  1. I’m trying to remember where I read it, but someone in the blogosphere commented at how the progressives are both tenacious with their goals and more than willing to sacrifice their own to push those goals forward. It doesn’t matter if they lose the next election in a landslide, if only they can get their policies in place. Once the policies are in place, they are monstrously hard to remove. They’ll be there still once the pendulum swings back and progressive can claw their way to power once again. And it may be that they feel they just need to push through a few more polices (like the voter’s rights act), and then it won’t matter. They’ll have ability to ensure a permanent majority no matter how disgruntled the populace becomes.

    I’m also reminded of the segment in William Shirer’s book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, in which the Nazi party for a period of years was gaining popularity and winnings seats in the Weimar government. But at their strongest push, when they were absolutely certain they had finally gathered all the public backing they needed to legitimately take control, and had nearly bankrupted themselves to achieve that goal, they fell short. They only managed to win about 40% of the seats, not enough to be solidly in control. That finally forced Hitler to stray from his goal, set after the Beer Hall Putsch, to gain power legitimately.

    I wonder if progressives are feeling the same kind of pressure. They thought they had all the popular backing they needed, they had their enemies fully vilified in public opinion, and they had the engine in place that would get them all the votes they needed. Except, after this last arrow was shot, instead of complete success and guarantee perpetual control, the results were insufficient. Yes, they have all three branches, but the House lost seats, and the Senate almost didn’t flip, and one rogue Democrat (such as Manchin) could stop the progressive tide. If the tide is indeed ebbing, then they have all the more reason to panic and attempt to drive through as much as they can while they can, because they may not have another chance for quite some time.

    As a note, I did finally finish The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, so maybe my references to it will slowly dwindle away…

    • I remember this strategy from a Robert Heinlein book, Double Star, which actually won the Hugo Award in 1956.

      The protagonist at the end is reflecting on the ebbs and flows of his political career. Essentially he says they he and his party were able to incrementally effect reforms. They would gain power and push through a reform and then lose power for a while (perhaps as a backlash). Rinse and repeat, but they were gradually able to achieve their goals.

      Now, several differences to today’s Democrats. The goals/reforms in the book were presented as obviously good and desirable (presumably Progressives see their goals as good as well). But his idea was to do the things the public would accept — or perhaps a bit beyond. You progress, you fall back and retrench, you try again. Basically the ebb and flow of parliamentary democracy. We do similar things with our republic.

      We’ve seen this sort of thing here in the United States — ideas that are universally accepted today were revolutionary 100 years ago. But generally speaking, the ideas that truly gained acceptance tended to be ones that had at least some real bipartisan backing. Perhaps 100 years from now the programs in the Build Back Brandon bill will be universally accepted — I don’t know. But today they are not.

      One thing that has definitely changed over the last couple decades, especially with the Democratic Party, is the idea that party solidarity is paramount. Senators especially used to be able to dissent without being considered traitors to their party. Losing that tolerance is a real step backwards to my mind.


      I have said before that I am in awe of the commentariat here. This was reinforced when I read the comments on the Manchin story over at Legal Insurrection. So many people are either so cynical or so partisan that they just cannot simply say “We won, hooray!”. They just have to keep sniping at whoever their villains are, or disparaging people like Manchin even when he does the right thing. It is annoying.

    • Pretty sure I read the same article, Ryan. They are definitely playing the long game. They are willing to commit electoral hari kiri and come back to fight again another day. Manchin and Sinema appear to not be willing to fall on their swords (which in Sinema’s case -one of my senators- surprises me) and be voted out of office.

      I remember Rachel Maddow first showing her vicious side when she argued in favor of ramming Obamacare through via reconciliation because they had the chance and who cares if the little people weren’t thrilled about it. The same thing is happening now.

      I think the death of democracy talking point has a sibling. Have you noticed Bernie and Ilhan Omar and the rest of the squad saying Manchin is “voting against his constituents’ interest” by not passing the bill? They’re saying, “What voter could possibly be opposed to the government giving them free shit? How can that be?” I find this extremely telling, signature significance, as Jack is wont to say. The Dems are acting like the PRI party in Mexico where the local party boss literally gives a voter a washing machine in return for their vote. Lis Warren might as well be saying, “What the hell is wrong with these people? We’re giving them free shit and they say no? They’re either idiots or they don’t appreciate what we’re trying to do for them! I’m incensed!”

      The idea that voters would be in favor of even a modicum of fiscal sanity simply doesn’t get through their Commie brains. As AOC has literally said, “Who cares about the deficit? We can just print money to pay the country’s debt! Everybody does it.”

  2. It’s interesting psychology… Manchin has been saying for months that he won’t support BBB without serious overhaul. They haven’t done it, instead deciding to do nothing but scream at him from canoes outside his houseboat. I don’t understand why they thought that would work, or why this is the time they’re finally believing that he won’t support it without overhaul.

  3. Now, the party and its media allies appear to have adopted the tactics of Orwell’s Big Brother as their response to their failure to distort democracy. The cry is that taking power away from the very party that has abused it will mean “the death of democracy,” and during the campaigns to come, the one-day, moronic mob of drunks and fools who stormed the Capital last January will be held up as exemplifying what opposition to the Democrats’ intended dictatorship is.

    Their media allies are ethics corrupters of the highest order!

  4. I believe it was one of the early communists, although I am not sure if it was Lenin himself, who said that the best way to get what you want is by taking two steps forward and one step back. Each time, you gain one step until you have gotten everything you want. The Democratic party is now taking the approach that you take 10 or 20 steps forward as long as you can, in the hopes that by the time you are forced to stop, you will have gone so far forward that what you have done cannot be rolled back.

    The fact is that the Democratic party’s adherents see their first loyalty as to the party and its goals, and to the United States afterwards. They have shown in the past 2 years that they reject the basic principles, parameters, and other things that make this country this country. They reject the concept of enumerated powers. They reject the concept of a bicameral legislature. They reject most of the Bill of Rights. They reject the idea of powers specifically delegated to the states. They also reject our history.

    They also know that once any policy is put in place, it is very hard to eliminate. Like it or not, we are stuck with Obamacare at this point. It’s been in place for 12 years, and even though it was not a very good idea, not very well conceived, and not very well executed, now there are folks with vested interests in it remaining who will fight tooth and nail to keep it in place. The last chance to do anything with it was shot down by a Republican senator dying of cancer who didn’t vote for the first time out, but voted for it to make it his last big middle finger to a president he personally hated. (Just for the record, it is despicable to throw the entire nation’s interests under the bus just so you can say “fuck you” to someone who slighted you when you are one step short of the gateway to heaven or hell and you won’t have to deal with the repercussions of your pettiness). We’re still stuck with social security, and now there’s really no way to reform it, even though we are probably pretty close to the time when it is simply going to run out of funds. There’s a really good chance that when my time comes to put in my papers and retire, there just won’t be any social security funds for me, because every dollar I pay into social security, and that the rest of you pay into social security if you’re still working, goes right out the door to a current retiree. It isn’t right that generation x and the generations that come after may well have to work until they die because they spent their careers financing baby boomers wearing their pants up to the chin on the golf course and complaining about how the government needs to make another cost of living adjustment upward in their social security payments. I’ve gone at times four and five years without a raise, and if I were still working in the first job I took way back in 1997 I think I would never have seen the first raise, yet these people want regular cost of living adjustments. But there’s no reforming this to make it more fair. Then there’s the question of all the Great Society welfare packages that LBJ put in place. Supposedly, Bill Clinton signed a triumphal welfare reform bill in the 1990s. I honestly haven’t seen any kind of realistic reform. I also haven’t seen any realistic effect on society. Our cities are in worse shape than ever, over 2/3 of births in the black community are out of wedlock, and crime keeps going up.

    Once this bill was in place, there’d be that many more programs designed to discourage innovation, business expansion, following the law, and most of all, voting for the Republican party. The hell with whatever the effects were on the rest of society.

    George W. Bush said in his address to a joint session of Congress preceding the war on terror that the Taliban had abandoned every principal except the will to power. He was correct, whatever else the Taliban said, the only thing they were interested in was getting in power and staying in power. He cast them as the most villainous regime on the face of the Earth at the time, and he might have been right. However, it seems like while we’ve been looking for villains abroad, we’ve let them grow up like poisonous weeds here at home.

    Bush said we were not fooled by the Taliban’s pretensions to piety. Anyone who didn’t let the wool be pulled over his eyes could see that they were anything but benign religious scholars. We also shouldn’t be fooled by the Democratic party’s pretensions to being some model of diversity, tolerance, civility, and inclusivity. Like colonel Nathan Jessup says in A Few Good Men regarding military values, some actually believe in these principles, but others just use them as a punchline.

    If those don’t work, they also throw out the concepts of unity and community. We’ve already been over where over much concept of unity leads.

    The fact is that any kind of principle, to the Democratic party, is only a principal as far as it helps them advance their agenda. They are not interested in the kind of diversity then welcomes ideas from right as well as left. They are not interested in the kind of tolerance that allows people who differ too widely from the party line. They are only interested in including those who will embrace their way of doing things. Civility? Ha! If you won’t adhere to their line, or accept them as correct, then you are a perfect Target for insulting, attacking, and bullying.

    The only thing stopping this party from imposing its will completely on this country is that they have been unable to get enough of the population either on their side or cowed enough. There are still people who stand up and say no, we’re not going to let this happen. A bunch of those folks just sent the message loud and clear in Virginia, and that message is likely to be sent even louder and clearer in about 11 months. It may be just a temporary victory though, because while we weren’t looking, the Democratic party’s surrogates among the education establishment have been stuffing the next generation’s heads with the idea that this country is evil and racist and that it’s up to them to atone for this by putting the Democratic party in charge forever.

    I don’t know if this will work, but I do know that the culture of education today is often the culture of government tomorrow. I won’t say all’s lost, but I think we ignore this wake up call at our peril.

    • Look at AOC. All she wants is single party rule as in Cuba or China. Republicans are simply reactionaries. And this is nothing new. I can remember being in the northeast in the ’70s and Republicans were despised and viewed as simply uninformed and wrong.

    • Very true, Steve, and for a perfect example of this process of gradualism in action, look at what the Fabian Society has been able to accomplish in the UK, particularly since WW2. Their slow, sometimes almost imperceptible movement toward Communism (they can call it socialism all they want, but it is pure Karl Marx wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger) has continued relentlessly and continues today.

  5. When you are absolutely, positively, indisputably and (most importantly) unarguably certain that you are 100% right on everything you propose, totalitarian tactics seem justified, and democratic checks and balances antebellum and destructive.

    Never have I seen a political ideology less willing to consider any possibility that they are wrong, or even rationally debate it. They simply don’t deign to communicate with their inferiors.

    What a pass we have come to.

  6. I don’t recall if I have heard this lately, but I do recall some folks talking about primarying Manchin when he’s up for reelection.

    Yes. Please. Primary the hell out of him.

    Drive him out of the Democratic party — do it before Christmas, if possible. Give McConnell a nice Christmas present.

    In West Virginia, the Republicans could probably field two competing candidates, splitting their votes — and there is an excellent chance that a non-Manchin Democrat would still lose.

    Barring some bizarre turn of events, Manchin is going to be re-elected whether he runs as a Democrat, Independent, or Republican. This is not rocket science. West Virginia is not a deep blue Progressive bastion.

    • Even better, if he does not run or gets primaried out of the nomination, the seat goes red. I doubt Manchin can win as an independent with a Democrat and Republican opponent.

      • Probably not — except didn’t that recently happen in Alaska and (I think) New Hampshire or Vermont?

        Incumbency is tough to overcome.

        • IIRC, Joe Lieberman did exactly that. He went on to basically support and caucus with the Democrats (no surprise), but he did run and win as an Independent and maintained that letter *I* next to his name in all the C-SPAN footage.


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